Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Phone Book

 "This is a volume of wishes, lies and dreams, each and every 
page containing the makings of a story untrammeled 
by anything except your willingness to invest in it."

Ammon Shea has written a quirky homage to the book that everyone uses but no one reads.  I heard him interviewed on NPR last week and I picked The Phone Book up at the library as it sounded well..quirky and fun.

 The first 50 pages or so are dedicated almost exclusively to the history of the telephone and communication systems as we began to enter the 20th century.  Questions of how people started to acquire phones have always fascinated me.  Why should I get a phone? Who would I call?  No one else has one. Of course once people started to subscribe to this new device called the telephone, people began publishing lists of who subscribed.  This seemed funny to me.  Picking up your phone directory list, lets see, who can I call? Who else has a phone?  But this is probably precisely what happened.

After an early history of the book itself, Shea discusses all manner of odd tidbits about the phonebook, and its uses in our lives.  He meets phone book collectors and investigates whether or not Strom Thurmond really read the phone book as part of a filibuster on civil rights legislation.  He investigates the phenomenon of phone book ripping and has a marvelous anecdote about John Dewey and the phone book.  He clearly is fascinated by this odd book. Shea's love of the white pages and endearing words about the place of the phone books in our culture made me a little wistful.  Could I too, sit down and read the phone book?

But it does not matter.  All sorts of plans are afoot to rid our planet of this scourge called the phone directory.  It is really highly unnecessary in this day and age.  Will it or won't it dissappear?  We shall see Mr. Shea concludes.

"I'm not dead yet!" says our friend the phone book.

1 comment:

Steph said...

I actually enjoy flipping through the phone book and seeing what treasures find me randomly.